They could be the best side in the world, across formats, by a distance. But when you’ve been away from top level cricket for a long spell, as the Indians have been, then you’re obviously short of a gallop and a fair few net sessions and practice games short of match readiness.
While Team India won’t complain about the long spell in the sidelines as it was the only recourse available to the top bosses of Indian cricket in the wake of the national lockdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, they couldn’t have asked for a tougher series on their return – a India tour of Australia.
Hence, Kohli and his charges would have to literally hit the ground running and get into proper mental and physical shape for the longest format.
With IPL being the only proper cricket they will play between now and the series Down Under in December, the Indians would have little time to adjust their game from the frenetic Twenty 20 cricket, where you throw caution to the winds and play a shot every ball, to Test cricket which demands a more measured and nuanced approach.
Straightaway getting into the groove for the longer form won’t be easy, especially when one considers that they’d have go into quarantine, as is the protocol these days after air travel.
Also, by the time the Indians reach the shores Down Under, England will have closed the gap further in the ICC World Test Championship points table as, by the looks of things, Joe Root and his charges appear all set to thump West Indies in the ongoing series, thereby adding a few more points to their kitty.
England squared the series at Old Trafford after losing the opening game at Southampton and with the Caribbeans on the ropes in the ongoing third Test, they are poised to post a comfortable series win.
As per the format of the Championship, which features all the 12 Test playing nations, a team can pick up a maximum of 120 points from a series win, irrespective of the number of matches played.
India tour of Australia vital for Test Championship
Though India currently sit top of the Championship points table with their tally of 360, Australia are breathing down their neck at 296 points and England, not a distant third, at 186 points. A series win over the Islanders would see them close the gap further on both Australia and India. Again, if the Three Lions were to blank Pakistan in the series which will follow the ongoing one, they could even upstage Australia in the points tally.
Although Pakistan have a fair record in England over the last five years, England, in the form they are in now, could get better of the visitors this time round in the three-match rubber.
Hence, the stakes are high for the Baggy Greens as well as they are wary of England snapping at their heels and, would look to post a series win over India to pull away further in the points table. So, expect a corker of a series during the India tour of Australia.
And, in a clear message that the Indian cricket bosses will settle for nothing short of a win Down Under, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly told skipper Kohli that he expected the team to win the series against Australia.
Speaking to a television news channel recently, Ganguly said, “It’s going to be a tough series. It’s not going to be what it was in 2018 ( when the Indians last toured and posted a series win). It’s going to be a strong Australia but our team is as good. We have the batting, we have the bowling.”
Faced with a tough and must-win series on return, the odds are heavily stacked against them. Coming off a series defeat against the Kiwis on their turf, the task is cut out for Kohli and his boys. But then if a you’re a top Test team, you’re expected to turn the odds in your favour.